This article is written by Aditya Dubey, student of Indore Institute of Law, Indore. The author in this article has discussed the Role and the independent position of the Election Commission of India as defined under the Constitution along with its powers and functions that the body has to perform.

Introduction

The Election Commission is a body which is responsible for making sure and conducting free and fair elections in the country. This power has been vested to the body by Article 324 of the Constitution of India. Since its establishment in 1950 and till 15th October 1989, the Election Commission had functioned as a single member body consisting of the Chief Election Commissioner. But on 16th October 1989, the President of India appointed two more election commissioners to cope up with the increased work of the election commission, this was done due to the fact that the voting age had been reduced to 18 years from 21 years. And in October 1993, the President of India appointed two more election commissioner and since then, to this day, the Election Commission has been functioning as a multi-member body consisting of three election commissioners. This article deals with the Election Commission’s powers and functions as well as the flaws which are present in the body.

What is the Election commission?

  • The Election Commission is an independent and permanent body which is established by the Constitution of India to ensure free and fair elections in the entire nation.
  • Article 324 of the Constitution of India provides for the power of superintendence, direction, and control of the elections for the parliament, state legislatures, the office of the President of India and the office of the Vice-President of India, is vested in the Election Commission’s jurisdiction. Hence, the election commission is a body which is common to both the Central Government as well as the State Governments.
  • The election commission is not at all concerned with the elections of panchayats and municipalities in the states, for these elections, there is a separate body which is called as the State Election Commission.

What is the mission and the vision of the Election Commission?

  • The Mission of the Election Commission: The Election Commission of India has to maintain its independence, integrity, and autonomy and it must also ensure ease of accessibility, inclusiveness, and ethical participation. It must also adopt the highest standards of professionalism for free, fair, and transparent elections in India to strengthen the trust which the people have in the electoral democracy and governance.
  • The Vision of the Election Commission: The Election Commission of India has to be an Institution of excellence by intensifying active involvement through participation and deepening as well as strengthening the situation of Democracy in India.

What is the Composition of the Election Commission?

As per Article 324, the Constitution of India has made many provisions with respect to the composition of the election commission, these are,

  1. The Election commission will consist of the chief election commissioner and any number of other election commissioners, if any, as per the President of India’s assent.
  2. The appointments of the chief election commissioner and any other election commissioner will be done by the President of India himself.
  3. When another election commissioner is appointed then in such cases, the chief election commissioner will have the authority to act as the chairman of the election commission.
  4. The President of India can also appoint regional commissioners as he deems necessary to assist the election commission, this can be done after consulting with the election commission.
  5. The tenure and the conditions of the work to be done by the election commissioners and the regional commissioners will be determined by the President of India.

The chief election commissioner and the two other election commissioners have equal powers and they also receive equal salary and allowances, these are similar to those of a Judge of the Supreme Court.

Tenure: They hold the office for a period of 6 years or till they attain the age of 65 years, whichever happens first and they can also resign at any time or can be removed before the expiry of their tenure.

How is the Election Commission independent?

Article 324 of the Constitution of India has made many provisions which safeguard and ensures that the Election Commission is independent and impartial in its functioning, these are the following provisions,

  1. The chief election commissioner has been provided with the stable tenure and he cannot be removed from his office except in the manner and grounds on which a Supreme Court’s Judge is removed from his office. He can be removed by the President of India on the basis of a resolution passed for such an outcome by both the Houses of the Parliament with a special majority (2/3rd of the members present and voting) which is either on the grounds of misbehaviour or incapacity to work.
  2. The conditions of the chief election commissioner’s service cannot change to his disadvantage after his appointment is done.
  3. Any other commissioner (election commissioner or regional commissioner) cannot be removed from his office unless it is done on the recommendations of the chief election commissioner himself.

Flaws in the Election Commission

  • The Constitution of India has not specified the qualifications of the members of Election Commission.
  • The Constitution of India has not specified the term of the tenure of the members of the Election Commission.
  • The Constitution of India has not restricted the retiring election commissioners from any further appointments by the government of India.
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What are the powers and functions that the Election Commission of India possess?

The powers and functions of the Election Commission with respect to the Parliament, the state legislature, and the offices of the President and the Vice-President of India, are can be categorised into three kinds, these are,

Administrative Powers

The important responsibility of superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of elections covers powers, duties and functions of many sorts, these are essentially the administrative powers of the election commission of India. Article 324 vests many functions in the Commission which may be powers or duties, essentially administrative and even judicative or legislative.

Advisory Powers

The Election Commission of India has been vested with this power in the cases where if a person is found to be guilty of any corrupt practices during an election either by a High Court in an election petition or by the Supreme Court in an election appeal, the President of India decides whether such a person should be disqualified for contesting elections in the future or not and, if so, for what time period. Before taking a decision on the occurrence of such a scenario, the President of India requests to obtain the opinion of the Election Commission and may act according to such opinion as per the situation.

Quasi-Judicial Powers

The Election Commission has another important function to perform under the law. All associations or the bodies of citizens calling themselves as political parties and willingly wishing to contest the elections under the name and banner of a political party have to get themselves registered with the Election Commission. Such a function of registration of political parties by the Election Commission has been held by the Supreme Court to be a quasi-judicial function of the Election Commission of India.

Hence, the Powers and Functions of the Election Commission include

  1. To Notify the dates and the schedule of the elections and to scrutinise the nomination papers.
  2. To prepare and revise electoral rolls and register all the eligible voters.
  3. To determine the areas of the electoral constituencies throughout the territory of India.
  4. To grant recognition to the political parties and assign the election symbols to the political parties.
  5. To act as a Court for settling disputes which are related to granting recognition to the political parties and in the allotment of election symbols to these political parties.
  6. Determining the code of conduct to be followed by the parties and the candidates at the time of the elections.
  7. Appointment of officers for inquiring into disputes related to electoral arrangements.
  8. Preparing a roster for publicity of the policies of the political parties.
  9. Advising the President of India on the matters related to the disqualifications of the members of the Parliament.
  10. Advising the Governor of a state on the matters related to the disqualifications of the members of the state legislature.
  11. Cancelling of polls in cases of rigging, booth capturing, or any other irregularity.
  12. Requesting the President of India or the Governor of a State for commandeering the staff for conducting the elections.
  13. Supervising the machinery of the elections throughout the territory of India and ensuring fair and free elections in the country.
  14. Advising the President of India on the scenario of President’s rule in the state.
  15. Registering the political parties for elections and granting them the status of a national or a state political party on the account of their poll performance.

Case: Brundaben Nayak v. Election Commission of India and another 1965 AIR 1892, 1965 SCR (3) 53.

If any question gets raised whether any sitting member of the Parliament or of the State legislature has become a subject to disqualification for continuing as a member under the Constitution of India (on grounds other than that of the ground of defection) or any law. Such a matter is decided by the President of India in cases which involve the members of the Parliament and in cases which involve the member of the State Legislature then the governor of that state has to decide on such a matter. And he is bound by the opinion of the Election commission in these matters as established in this case.

Hence, in this case, it was held that the President of India and the governors of States are bound by the opinion of the Election Commission of India in such matters and they are not required to even consult the council of ministers in this regard.

What are the guiding principles of good governance?

The election commission of India has itself laid down the guiding principles of good governance, these are,

  1. Upholding the values that are enshrined in the Constitution, i.e. equality, equity, impartiality, independence. As well as rule of law in superintendence, direction, and control over the electoral governance.
  2. Conducting elections with the highest standard of fairness, transparency, integrity, credibility, freeness, accountability, autonomy, and professionalism, as much as possible.
  3. Ensuring the participation of all the eligible citizens in the election process in a voter-friendly environment.
  4. Engaging with the political parties and all the stakeholders in the interest of the election process.
  5. Promoting awareness about the election process among the voters, political parties, election functionaries, candidates and people at large and enhancing and strengthening the confidence and trust of the people in the electoral system of India.
  6. Developing the human resource for effective delivery of the electoral services.
  7. Making sure that quality infrastructure is built for smooth conduct of the electoral process.
  8. Adopting new and improved technology in all areas involving the election process.
  9. Contributing to the reinforcement of democratic values by maintaining and reforming the confidence and trust of the people of the nation in the electoral system of India.
  10. To strive for the adoption of new and innovative practices for achieving excellence and overall realization of the vision and mission of the Election Commission of India.

Conclusion

Over the decades, the Election Commission of India has conducted a good number of elections in India and there have been many changes to the electoral reforms to strengthen the democracy and enhance the elections in India. However, the elections in India have become or are still plagued to this day. This is due to many reasons, the reasons for such events happening may be, to win votes, the political parties resort to using foul methods or corrupt practices in order to gain an advantage in the Elections.

The Election Commission of India tries its level best to wipe out the virus of malpractices from its roots. This is done through the usage of the new and improved technology which is ever growing and developing every day. The Election Commission of India has taken many steps in the recent past to overcome the corrupt practices that may exist. Through schemes for use of State-owned Electronic media for broadcasting by Political parties, providing electors with identity cards, and simplifying the procedure for maintenance of accounts and filling the same by the candidates, etc.

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